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Anime / Armitage III

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In the year 2046, Mars has been successfully colonized by humankind and their robotic helpmates. Its domed cities are comfortable and cosmopolitan, and its population sophisticated and prosperous enough to support tours by famous performers from Earth. But one such performer, a country-western singer, is assassinated by a mysterious assailant when she arrives at the Martian spaceport.

The investigation into her killing is assigned to police officer Ross Sylibus, himself newly transferred from Earth in the wake of a tragedy that left him the possessor of a bionic leg. He is partnered with petite, provocative plainclothes cop Naomi Armitage. What looks like a comprehensible (if tragic) killing, though, takes a confusing turn when it's discovered that the dead singer was not a human woman, but an android of hitherto unseen sophistication. And that she was not the only one of her kind living undercover among humanity — nor was she the only one of her kind recently murdered. The assailant, meanwhile, identifies himself as René D'anclaude, and proclaims his intent to rid Mars of these robots, to which Ross and Naomi are called to stop him.

What is the secret of the Thirds, the latest generation of robotics technology? Who is killing them, and why? And what is Naomi's own hidden secret? As Sylibus and Armitage delve deeper into the mystery, they must come face to face with prejudice, sisterhood, and ultimately the very definition of what it means to be human.

A four-episode OVA miniseries written by Chiaki Konaka and released in 1995, Armitage III is tightly plotted and action-packed, yet does not stint on philosophical questions and quandaries. It is old enough to have been created entirely with traditional hand-drawn animation; quality control is high, though, and there is no sign of "rushed" or careless work. Both characters and backgrounds are crisp and detailed — the Martian cityscapes are a joy to behold at times, as are the main players in the drama, particularly Armitage herself.

Armitage III, as brief as it is, spawned a sequel movie called Dual Matrix. It switches from traditional animation to computer-assisted animation. Taking place years after the end of the OVA, Ross and Naomi live a quiet life on St. Lowell. Ross now works for Astro Technologies, a company seeking to restore oceans to Mars using ice asteroids. A new effort to restart the Third project prompts Naomi to travel to Earth and investigate, which leads her and Ross to oppose Demetrio Martini, Vice President of Earth Robotronics Corporation, who wants to stop robots from gaining equality and discover the secret of Thirds so he can produce Thirds as a slave race.

In North America, Armitage was one of Pioneer Entertainment's first wave of imports in the early 1990s. Unlike most of the other shows in that noteworthy premiere, though, Armitage suffers from an uneven dub cast. In particular, Sylibus is quite wooden in English. To complicate matters, though, Pioneer edited together the four OVA episodes into a feature-length "motion picture" called Armitage III: Polymatrix and then dubbed it a second time with "name" actors — Keifer Sutherland as Sylibus and Elizabeth Berkeley as Armitage. (Unusually for an anime movie, Polymatrix was never released in Japanese; it only existed in English, and received Japanese subtitles when it screened in Japan.) Pioneer has also brought the sequel movie to North America, with yet a third dub cast, this one featuring Juliette Lewis as Armitage.

Armitage III provides examples of:

  • Action Bomb: In the third OVA episode, D'anclaude begins releasing modified Second-type gynoids rigged to self-destruct in public locations. This not only provides an excuse for the MPD to stop investigating the Third murder case, but adds fuel to the fire of the anti-robot movement on Mars.
  • Action Girl: Armitage.
  • Adaptational Context Change: In the original OVA series, the Thirds are revealed as Uterine Replicators after one of the murder victims who had been living underground on Mars was discovered. In the Polymatrix movie, her storyline was cut — and so a new scene was animated showing that Kelly McCannon, the first of the Thirds to be murdered, was pregnant. Ross has a flashback to Kelly's manager Drowning His Sorrows, and calling her "the most human woman I know" — a scene from the OVA now used as foreshadowing for this revelation.
  • Ambiguous Robots: Thirds are frequently said to be robots and we know they are artificially created but they are capable of bearing children so who knows how you're supposed to classify them.
  • Androids and Detectives: Ross Sylibus, a detective fresh from Earth who hates robots after losing a leg and an old partner in a fight, works with Naomi Armitage, a experienced Martian Cowboy Cop who is one of the Third-type humanoid robots living in secret on Mars. They fight crime, and Fantastic Racism. Their initial relationship boils down to the stock "I hate technology." "I am technology." dialogue associated with this trope.
  • Arm Cannon: Armitage gets upgraded with this in time for the final battle.
  • Artificial Limbs: Ross, after the incident which cost him his partner, replaced his old leg with a cybernetic one.
  • Babies Ever After: Ross and Armitage make one in the OVA.
  • Baby Factory: The true purpose of Third type androids was to birth babies to increase the Martian population, though they were also given sapience and their own personalities. This, combined with the fact that the Greater Scope Villains of the film are Earth's feminist government who aren't happy about this, can make the story rather uncomfortable for western audiences.
  • Battle Couple: Ross and Armitage become this eventually.
  • Beta Test Baddie: The D'anclaude assassinroids, collectively the Robot Me of the roboticist who partnered with Dr. Asakura, to develop Naomi, and eventually the Third series, based on the assassinroid technology. Even the Reformed, but Not Tamed "Wilbur" D'anclaude working with Asakura cheerfully admits the scorn for the Thirds he shared with his brothers, although Wilbur states that he's been upgraded enough to recognize and admit Naomi's right to exist.
  • Big Bad:
    • Original OVA series and Poly Matrix: René D'anclaude is the enigmatic leader of a group of murderous anti-robot terrorists who want to rid Mars of robots, particularly Thirds. D'anclaude himself is actually a group of assassinroids created by the original D'anclaude, a researcher and partner of Dr. Asakura who turned against his project at the behest of Earth's Straw Feminist government.
    • Dual Matrix: Demetrio Martini is the Vice President of Earth Robotics Corporation, who seeks to block a recent Robot Rights bill and discover the secret behind Thirds so he can mass-produce Thirds as a slave race; to that end, he is willing to kidnap Yoko, daughter of Ross and Naomi, to force Ross to vote against the bill, and kill Ross and Armitage for interfering.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Naomi and Ross versus the Martian military. Subverted in the epilogues of the OVA and The Movie, which reveals that they survived.
  • Brain Uploading: Julian, after dying, uploads the brain of both him and all the murdered Thirds into the main registry of Mars. When Armitage visits Julian's virtual ghost in the OVA, he mentions that he wasn't able to save enough data from the others to allow them to actually talk, but is glad to have their company.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer/Cowboy Cop: Armitage gets away with her punk-rock outfit and tendency towards emotional blow-ups because she gets the job done.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Julian in Dual Matrix only appears for a few camels at first, but ultimately is the one to take down Demetrio.
  • Color-Coded Characters: Naomi and Ross usually wear red and blue, respectively, symbolizing their homeworlds (Mars and Earth, respectively), among other things. The last episode of the original series has them switching colors, indicating both their closeness and their growing separation from both worlds' societies.
  • Cool Shades: Naomi has a pair. When she puts them on, she's mad at something.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: One executive of the Martian ConCeption corporation from the OVA is involved in the Government Conspiracy behind D'anclaude. He also uses a Second that looks suspiciously like Sailor Moon as his personal secretary, and apparently also part of a harem of sexbots designed to look like the other Sailor Senshi.
  • Cranial Processing Unit: The Thirds are fairly resistant to bullets, but vulnerable to headshots, which are shown to seriously impact their ability to move and communicate.
  • Cute Bruiser: Armitage again.
  • Cyberspace: One of the scenes from the OVA not included in the Polymatrix movie has Ross access a Virtual Reality terminal to accompany Armitage into cyberspace to find the virtual ghosts of Julian and the other murdered Thirds. Ross muses that being able to do that is another sign that he's becoming less human. The cyberspace scenes are strongly reminiscent of TRON, but the scene was so minor that Polymatrix is able to write it out with a few seconds of new ADR.
  • Cyberpunk: Aesthetically, the series is very clearly inspired by works such as Blade Runner.
  • Cyberpunk Is Techno: The majority of the soundtrack, with the exception of when Cyberpunk Is Country And Western.
  • Da Chief: Larry Randolf, lieutenant of the Martian Police and head of the Technical Criminal SWAT division, as well as Rossís boss.
  • Deadly Upgrade: In Dual Matrix: "Heaven's Door." She manages not to fully roast herself though.
  • Determinator: Armitage can be stabbed, shot, electrocuted, and blown up, but never shows any signs of yielding or backing down on her missions.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Happens so early on in Dual Matrix as to not even be a spoiler; Colonel Strings, the man behind a covered-up massacre of Thirds, briefly looks like he will be the antagonist of Dual Matrix, but only about twenty minutes in, he is gunned down by agents of the real antagonist, Demetrio Martini.
  • Do Androids Dream?: The driving force of the series is robotsí attempt to be recognized as equals and the forces that threaten to keep them discriminated against.
  • Dueling Hackers: Julian and D'anclaude later on.
  • Evil Knockoff: The twin Armitage "clones" from Dual Matrix.
  • Fantastic Racism: The witchhunt against the Thirds, and the anti-robot tension in Martian society in general.
  • First-Episode Twist: Naomi Armitage is a Third-series robot.
  • Flawed Prototype: Weirdly, Armitage hits this and Super Prototype at the same time. She has both the Thirds' reproductive capabilities and the assassinroids' strength, speed and overall toughness, but it's revealed that she also possesses mental instabilities due to a bug that originally couldn't be worked out.
  • Foreshadowing: At the interview with the conCeption CEO Allen, Ross expressed his amazement at how human-like the robots are by saying, that they can do everything that humans can except reproduce. It is revealed later that the Third Series can do even that.
  • Hate Crimes Are a Special Kind of Evil: Jessica Manning is an artist who is outed as a "Third", humaoid gynoid capable of giving birth, which is at odds with the current Feminist government of Earth. She is seized in front of her model (and implied lover) Jenny, and murdered by a lynch mob. As a point of contrast, Jenny is shown grieving for Jessica, mourning her loss, while the people who murdered her are a faceless mob.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Dimitrio Mardini, the Big Bad of Dual Matrix, gets killed by his own Armitage-knockoff, as this knockoff was possessed/reprogrammed/hijacked/hacked by Julian, a Third, whose hardware had been killed but his software backed-up (thanks to Armitage) and who now aids the heroes from the background.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Armitage is already short to begin with (5'1"), but standing next to Ross (6'3") makes her look a grade schooler.
  • I Am a Monster: Naomi vents about this, in so many words, to Ross after she rescues him from D'anclaude for the first time.
  • I Have Your Daughter: Demetrio kidnaps Yoko in an attempt to force Ross to vote against the Robot Rights bill.
  • Implacable Man: D'anclaude is violently defeated at the end of both episodes 1 and 2, only to get back up again.
  • Informed Ability: When Ross is first introduced to Armitage, the chief goes on about how she's such a good detective. Her idea of "detective work" clearly amounts to getting in witnesses' and suspects' faces and threatening them with bodily harm if they don't cooperate with her. If anything, Ross is the one who conducts the actual investigation.
  • Job-Stealing Robot: The cause of all the tension on Mars, and a pivotal plot point of the series. Especially as Earth objects to the latest "job" the Thirds are stealing; pregnancy.
  • Karmic Transformation: Ross Sylibus, the robot-hating detective, had a robotic leg since the incident that caused said hatred. He gains even more cybernetic parts as he grows closer to Naomi. D'Anclaude is happy to lampshade this as soon as he finds out.
    "Surely the ironic humor of this hasn't escaped you?"
  • Lady Land: On earth, the average human female is super-privileged - every political figure on Earth is a woman. As a result, few women want to immigrate to Mars, which keeps the colony from establishing the population it needs to declare independence. Deconstructed with a reversal of the Double Standard; a great many men are extremely dissatisfied with this, resulting in a Mars-based corporation called conCeption creating the Second-type androids - fully-functional Ridiculously Human Robots with the faces of young girls and the bodies of adult women - resulting in a massive wave of Earth immigrants eager for non-feminist sexual partners, even robotic ones. Eventually, these are upgraded to full-blown Artificial Humans capable of conceiving children. When Earth discovers this, the resulting jealousy and fear of being replaced results in The War of Earthly Aggression - Earth demands that Mars eliminate the Thirds or be completely annihilated.
  • Last-Name Basis: While Armitage eventually starts referring to Ross by his first name, Armitage herself is only ever called Armitage. Dr. Asakura happens to be the exception.
    • Ross does improve on this by Dual Matrix though, especially in the last third.
  • Last of His Kind: Sort of played for laughs: Kelly Mccanon is the "last country singer in the universe". However, this takes on a serious tone when she ends up being murdered.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: A familiar-looking set of sex-toy androids in the OVA.
  • Layered Metropolis: St. Lowell is one, with many of its buildings seemingly floating in the air above the lower levels of the city.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Armitage can zip through buildings and tear down a giant robot using only her body.
  • Mama Bear: Naomi in Dual Matrix cuts through hordes of robots and brutally fights the two Armitage clones to protect her daughter Yoko.
  • Mars Needs Women: The motivation behind the creation of the Thirds, robots that can get pregnant.
  • A Mech by Any Other Name: There are robots everywhere on Mars, but they're rarely referred to as such; instead, they are numbered according to the generation of their development;
    • The first generation, or "Firsts" are obviously non-human robots, occasionally referred to as "gadgets." They are primarily used for industry and security.
    • "Seconds" have the appearance of Ridiculously Human Robots - human enough to be used as sexual partners. However they are non-sapient and do not think like humans. They were marketed to immigrants from Earth when a feminist movement came to power, resulting in a large number of unsatisfied Earth men.
    • "Thirds" are full-blown Artificial Humans designed for a specific purpose; to act as Uterine Replicators and thereby bolster Mars' population high enough for the planet to declare independence. Although they're generally more mature in appearance than the Secondsnote , they are generally moderately attractive in comparison to the female politicans from Earth. Reflecting their more advanced Artificial Intelligence, they generally opted for intellectual or creative jobs - like Kelly Clarkson, a musician famous across the Colonized Solar System.
    • "Fourths", or "Alives" as Doctor Asakura calls them, are mature Organic Technology; an attempt to complete Mars' Terraforming, a project which has fallen by the wayside due to lack of funding and interest.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: Demetrio Martini of Dual Matrix prefers to let his agents do the fighting. His two Evil Knockoffs of Armitage serve as the main physical threat and Final Boss, while Demetrio himself is quickly dealt with afterwards by Julian.
  • Nonstandard Character Design: There is a very clear delineation between humans and robots on Mars, and a sharp eye will pick it out even before the big reveal at the end of the first episode:
    • Humans and Third-type androids are drawn Mukokuseki-style: visibly European facial features and average proportions; arms, legs and torsos all roughly the same length, broad shoulders, slender hips. There's a deliberate effort to make humans forgettably un-attractive, although the Thirds are generally attractive by comparison.
    • Every Second-type android is drawn in a traditional, big-eyed Anime style, with Generic Cuteness: the faces of young girls and the figures of mature women; short arms and abdomens, long legs, rounded hips, emphasized bust. This is a deliberate design decision In-Universe: Many seconds are Sexbots marketed to Earth immigrants; specifically Earth men so unsatisfied with its Straw Feminist government they've turned Robosexual. This is a big giveaway that Armitage isn't human, as she stands out in a crowd even before one takes into account her Stripperiffic wardrobe.
  • Older Than They Look: Armitage is pint-sized (she's barely tops 5ft.) and has the face of a 13-14 year old, despite being in her 20s. So Ross naturally assumes she's a kid when he first sees her, until Da Chief explains that she's the new partner Ross has been assigned to.
  • One-Woman Army: Armitage.
  • Online Alias: "Pluto". Word of God actually says that all the Thirds have aliases based on the names of the nine planets of the solar system (as they were considered back then).
  • Papa Wolf: Ross in Dual Matrix is willing to brave harsh terrain, battle agents of a corrupt corporation, and climb up a massive ladder extending up into the sky, all to recuse his daughter Yoko.
  • Playful Hacker: Mouse from Dual Matrix, who also runs a repair shop.
  • Power Gives You Wings: The upgrade that Armitage receives at the end of the OVA plays with this, as the wings (and the subsequent mobility they provide) is half of the upgrade. Even Armitage finds them to be a little pretentious.
    "It's a little too angelic for my taste."
  • Product Placement: Pioneer (The company that animated it) appears a whole lot through the series.
  • Rabble Rouser: D'anclaude's killings were meant to encourage the Martian populace, already on edge about robots of all kinds, to hunt down any potential Thirds among them - as demonstrated by Jessica Manning, who was dragged from her home and burnt to death by a mob, atop a pile of other robots.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Ross and Armitage, even down to the color of their clothes.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Especially the Thirds, which are human enough to get pregnant.
  • Robo Family: Armitage considers Julian her brother and the other female Thirds her sisters.
  • Robot Girl: Armitage, of course, and all of the other Seconds.
  • Robot Me: The D'anclaude Naomi and Ross encounter in the first few episodes turns out to be one of several assassinroids, all built in the image of their creator, one Doctor Rene D'anclaude. Armitage is briefly suspected as a Jack the Ripoff when the murders continue after the first D'anclaude was taken into custody, and Da Chief refuses to accept Ross' testimony that he'd apparently escaped. Another D'anclaude-bot was reprogrammed to serve as a lab assistant to Dr. Asakura.
  • Robotic Reveal: Armitage confesses to being a Third at the end of the first OVA episode.
  • Robotic Spouse: Armitage, who is even able to get pregnant and bear children, the purpose the Third Types were built for.
  • Rollerblade Good: The Armitage replicas.
  • The Stinger: In Dual Matrix, Mouse manages to fish one of the Armitage III knock-offs out of the garbage and get it to work, although it's never clarified how.
  • Slasher Smile: D'anclaude, although Naomi Armitage can sport a pretty vicious one as well.
  • Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: The First and Second types are somewhere between the "Brick" and "Robo-Monkey" levels of robotic intelligence; the Seconds are generally more intelligent in order to interact with humans. The Thirds are at the "Above-Average Joe Android" level, possibly bordering on the creative side of the "Nobel-Bot" level.
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: Armitage is one of the shortest people in the cast, but she has one of the biggest guns to make up for it.
  • Space Cossacks: Many sexually dissatisfied men from Earth massively immigrate to Mars after a Martian-based corporation creates female-looking Sexbots. Most of the appeal is that these robots make for non-feminist partners. When Earth discovers this, The War of Earthly Aggression begins.
  • Space Western: Some aspects, in that country music is a part of the plot and Mars is very much a frontier colony (which probably contributes to Kelly Mccanon's appeal).
  • Spiritual Successor: Armitage III clearly takes inspiration from Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel. Though Naomi Armitage is most probably cuter than R. Daneel Olivaw.
    • It's also been described as the anime version of Blade Runner. The two are undoubtedly very similar in moral and plot.
  • Straw Feminist: Earth's government. The Backstory is only implied, but a key plot element is that feminists have become political powerhouses equivalent to Greens. It is implied by the presence of an Earth "observer" that on Earth, women have gained status equivalent to South African whites under apartheid - and few are willing to give that up just because Mars Needs Women. Space has been colonized, and Mars has been partially Terraformed, but has thus been unable to draw enough women to the planet to breed new Martians. Androids first created as a source of labor were upgraded to Ridiculously Human Robots known as "Seconds" as a immigration draw; come to Mars and leave the shrews behind for a sweet, willing conCeption Sexbot. The long term solution was to build fertile women - the titular "Thirds"; robots so human that they can be impregnated — and actually raise the children they give birth to. When the Straw Feminists find out about the plan, the threat to their power base pisses them off to no end, resulting in an ultimatum; scrap the baby makers or Mommy will come do it personally, along with as much of the landscape as necessary.
  • Stripperiffic: Armitage, the "badge-toting terror in hot pants" and a leather bra top. Ross even lampshades this in the first OVA.
  • Suicide Attack: D'anclaude has a habit of turning second-generation robots into walking bombs. In episode 3, Armitage also uses her power of self-destruction to take out a D'anclaude clone. She doesn't die, but she's badly damaged.
  • Super-Speed: Armitage pulls off some positively Sonic The Hedgehog-esque moves in the first episode.
  • Super Prototype: Naomi, who was based on the assasinroid program that gave birth to the D'anclaude robots, and retained the higher-performance features that weren't included in the 'actual' Third-types.
  • Super-Toughness: Armitage can take bullets, stab wounds and head-on grenade hits and keep going.
  • The Power of Love: According to Julian, it takes more than the right "plumbing" for androids to be able to bear children, they have to be capable of motherly love to do so.
  • Technopath: The Third-type androids, including Armitage, are able to take control of some electronics remotely, including one scene in Polymatrix where Armitage hijacks the holographic projectors in Ross' car to beg for help, and another scene where the second named Third to be killed, Jessica Manning, transmits a final electronic message to her lover while being burned by a mob.
  • Terraforming: Taking place on Mars during the story.
  • The War of Earthly Aggression: A low-intensity version — the Thirds were designed to help pave the way for Martian independence (because Mars Needs Women even if they have to build them), and D'anclaude's goal was to ensure that couldn't happen.
  • Thong of Shielding: the "Second" used as a flight stewardess on the Mars colony transport wears one. Humorously, she has a "DO NOT TOUCH" label on her bumcheek.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: D'anclaude drives the Martian populace to this against one of the Thirds.
  • Uterine Replicator: The key plot element, and the true purpose of the Thirds;
    Pluto: (It's) why the Thirds were made to seem so human, not just in appearance but emotionally, like the murdered singer and that novelist. They weren't just machines. They had souls. It takes more than the right plumbing to procreate. Yes, sir. The perfect receptacle for human babies.
  • Virtual Ghost: In Dual Matrix, Julian becomes this.
    • Also the murdered Thirds in general, whose ghosts live on in cyberspace. Armitage and Ross even become these temporarily.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Armitage, a robot known as a Third, laments "If humans don't want me, then why did they create me?"